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Good Neighbour Charter

1 Dec 2008

The Good Neighbour Charter is a public commitment by Tasmania’s forest industry to engage in constructive and cooperative dialogue with their neighbours and to promote good communication between different industries with a view to improving relationships between forestry companies and neighbouring landowners.

The charter was developed by forestry companies in consultation with local government, regional authorities, and farming and tourism groups and was signed by Forestry Tasmania, Gunns Limited, Norkse Skog Boyer Mills Australia Limited, Timberlands Pacific Pty Ltd, FEA Pty Ltd and Great Southern Limited who collectively are the largest forestry companies in the State.

Organisations that were prepared to endorse the commitments within the charter were Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, Local Government Association of Tasmania, Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), Forests and Forest Industry Council of Tasmania, Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association, and Private Forests Tasmania.

FIAT CEO Terry Edwards said the charter was a major factor to improving relationships between forestry and other industries and neighbours that share boundaries and regions throughout Tasmania.

“The charter assists in bringing people together from all spectrums of different industries to enable better and more transparent communication over issues of mutual interest,” he said.

“There is no value in disagreements being dealt with by way of public acrimony and recrimination, rather a mature approach founded on good will and mutual respect will lead to significantly better outcomes for all.

“This will also help with maintaining dialogue between forestry, agriculture, tourism and local government during contentious issues and by using the charter; issues are more likely to be resolved to the benefit of both industries and the State as a whole.

The original Good Neighbour Charter was developed in 2000 and only covered plantations whereas the 2008 charter covers both plantation and native forest management and an additional six organisations endorsed the relaunched charter.

Key issues covered in the charter include care of the environment, managing fire risk and planned burns, tourism, roading and control of weeds and pests.

Forest companies have committed to manage the effects of fire on the greater community, while still creating an environment suitable for the establishment of new trees.

This will be achieved by aiming to prevent wildfires starting and spreading from forests though planning at strategic, tactical and operational levels and having trained fire-fighting crews where practicable and will actively co-operate with state and local fire management agencies.

In addition planned burns will only be conducted when forecast and actual weather conditions are suitable as assessed by competent persons and all the appropriate planning tools, mostly developed by the Bureau of Meteorology, will be used to minimise smoke near residences and other sensitive premises.

Forest companies are committed to listening to neighbours concerns and taking those concerns into account when determining strategies for weed and pest eradication and other similar forestry operations that can impact on neighbours.

Particular care will be taken with chemicals and use of chemicals will be in strict compliance with the Agriculture and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act and other relevant statutes and codes of practice.

Another important area that was identified in consultation with the Tourism Industry Council was the protection of tourism values and a commitment to the Tourism and Forestry Protocol Agreement.

The agreement, which is under constant review, covers forestry operations such as planning, harvesting, regeneration burns, log trucks and chemical use and seeks to minimise their effects on the tourism industry.

Outcomes from this agreement include consultation between forestry companies and relevant accredited tourism operators and associations to manage the impacts of timber harvesting and transport and management of planned burning during significant tourism events or major holiday periods such as Easter to minimise any impact on the tourism industry.

The charter includes an area that all Tasmanians are concerned about; the environment.

Forestry companies have committed to undertaking sustainable forest management practices which include specific provisions for water quality and quantity, soil productivity, flora and fauna and genetic resources, cultural heritage, geomorphology and landscape values.

Mr Edwards said forestry companies currently have to provide Forest Practices Plans in accordance with the Forest Practices Act which detail environmental considerations, proposed harvesting techniques, reforestation plans, conservation requirements and fire management strategies.

The Forest Practices Plans are submitted to an independent statutory authority, the Forest Practices Authority (FPA).

These plans must be approved by a qualified and accredited Forest Practices Officer prior to any activities commencing and are subject to formal random audits by the FPA.

There are numerous phases to a Forest Practices Plan and each phase must be approved prior to the next phase commencing.  Phases can include planning, roading, harvesting and establishment.

“The Good Neighbour Charter goes one step further than the existing Forest Practices System by ensuring forest activities are more transparent to neighbours and allowing a neighbour to be more involved in what is happening near their property and it also allows them to raise issues of concern directly with the companies involved,” said Mr Edwards.

“Neighbours can feel assured their concerns will be resolved as far as reasonably possible and if they feel their concerns have not been met, the companies will endeavour to consult more closely with them and find the best possible outcome for all concerned.

Neighbours can expect to be informed prior to forestry operations occurring and will be given contact details for field staff and the manager of the forest operation to enable quick and easy communication at ground level.

The Good Neighbour Charter is available from signatory companies or through Forest Industries Association Tasmania and Forestry Tasmania.

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